But Wawa’s Ordering System IS Pretty Amazing

So this story has been making the rounds today. Smirking leftist tool Andrea Mitchell and some chattering jackass guffaw at a highly edited tape of Mitt Romney claiming to be amazed by Wawa’s touchscreen ordering system. Before rolling the tape, DNC operative Mitchell prepares the viewers for a George Bush Sr. “supermarket scanner” moment.

(Brief sidebar for you young’uns: Back when GHW Bush  was running for his second term, he supposedly was at some smile-and-shake in a supermarket and remarked about how amazing the bar-code scanning technology was, as though he had never seen it. I remember clearly the media tilt on this story, and I absorbed the message they wanted me to absorb: Bush was out of touch, and needed to go. Except it was all a lie. Bush was just making small talk. The media deliberately distorted the story.)

In the Mitchell clip, Romney talks about ordering subs at Wawa. There is a bunch of missing footage. It appears as if he is amazed that you can walk into a Wawa, construct a sub on a touch screen, place and pay for the order, and then pick up your sandwich. This amazement is supposed to tell us that Romney is your typical clueless millionaire dweeb out of touch with the way everybody lives. That’s certainly how Mitchell framed it, and her snickering response merely drove home the anti-Romney message.

Except … Continue reading

Some Very Cool Evidence of Early Eyeglass Use

Medievalist.net found this story about some incredibly neat evidence of eyeglass use from a medieval manuscript. No, it wasn’t a mention in the manuscript: it was on the manuscript. Witness:

Someone placed their eyeglasses, most likely leather-framed spectacles, inside the flyleaf, closed the book, and then went off and forgot about them or got killed by Huns or something. It’s like a coffee ring, only made by leather eyeglasses.

They might have looked something like this:

That’s some cutting edge technology, right there: world-changing, in fact, and quite beautiful. Here’s what the discoverer of the evidence deduced:

Advanced scientific methods for dating aside, we can get a good estimate of the age of the eyeglasses that left the impression on the parchment by first examining the script on the parchment (to establish the earliest possible date) and then by looking at the shape of the impression itself. The text is what is known as Southern Textualis or Rotunda. Southern Textualis was popular in Italy and Southern Europe between the late 1200s and the late 1400s. Alternately, the 1568 publication of the printed text provides us with a possible later date. Regardless, the spectacles conform to the physical features and rough time period for early medieval leather-framed spectacles. But dare we hope for more? Because the book was printed in Venice, Italy, the tantalizing possibility exists that the wearer who deposited his spectacles in between the parchment leaves may have been using a pair of the earliest eyeglasses ever made, because Florence, where eyeglasses were invented, is less than 165 miles from Venice. Although we may never know exactly how (or when) these spectacles left their mark on the parchment, their faint impressions nevertheless offer an intriguing glimpse into the early history this important invention.

Arne Saknussemm, Is That You?

I am totally investing in this:

The North Pole Inner Earth Expedition is the Greatest Expedition in the History of the World!

Become part of History. Donate. The film record made during this expedition may be the rarest, most awakening ever produced. More than 40 million enthusiasts are following this Voyage. If you ever considered participating in a major feature documentary, now is your chance. Help us write history by testing the ultimate myth. We strongly believe that the films made from this venture will more than pay for the expenses to conduct it. We still have a chance to make this Expedition happen.

A major Park Avenue New York film documentary company has stepped forward and pledged the funds for the Expedition! This $1.5 million pledge gets the ship charter in place by August of 2012. The Expedition launches in July of 2013 on the last available ship in the world for this excursion. The only thing left is the expense for the crew to get there and back, which is a mere $350,000. We can do this. 100 people get to go on the ship. Millions will travel with us by live streaming connection. Be a part of it!

The science is real. The story is more than 5,000 years old. The legend says that at a certain place above the Arctic Circle, there exists an oceanic depression or an entrance into the Earth. It’s a place where the maritime legend claims sea level isn’t level anymore.

The discovery that the earth is hollow would forever shatter our long-held beliefs about how planets are formed. More importantly, however, discovering life beneath the earth’s crust could potentially provide us with new tools that would allow life on the surface to regain environmental balance, harmony, and possibly even peace. These prospects make the North Pole Inner Earth Expedition the greatest expedition in the history of the world.

My favorite part is the schedule of the expedition, which includes this item on Day 10: “Use completed human consciousness training to attract inner Earth presence.” (I understand this instantly qualifies the organizers of the expedition to be keynote speakers at next year’s LCWR meeting.)

The question remains: is it a scam/hoax, or legitimately crazy people? There is no option three.


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Cardinal Dolan on “True Freedom”

In his new ebook, published this morning, Cardinal Dolan makes a quick and bracing call for a return of natural law against the utilitarianism and moral relativism that currently define modern law and public policy. Adapted from his speech for the Law and the Gospel of Life Series given at Fordham Law School’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work, and padded by John Allen’s lengthy introduction to his book of conversations with the Cardinal, “True Freedom” is not what you might expect. Rather than a call to turn back the recent assaults on religious liberty, which Cardinal Dolan is already making with a clear and forceful voice, it is an effort to recast the entire discussion by understanding the roots of human rights in a free society.

Cardinal Dolan begins with the quote from Pope Leo XIII which gives his work its title: “True freedom  …   is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear.”

The core of his argument is a lengthy meditation on Bl. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, which tried to restore an understanding of real freedom, as opposed to the illusory freedom offered by modern society. The late pope saw that there was a “a war of the powerful against the weak” and wrote the forces that threaten basic human freedom and dignity: “A person who, because of illness, handicap, or, more simply, just by existing, threatens the well-being or lifestyle of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of ‘conspiracy against life’ is unleashed.”

Cardinal Dolan follows this quote with an observation:

Such a culture of death can only thrive, of course, in a world in which God has been excluded, and in which everyone can evade the responsibility of solidarity by claiming to define his or her own morality. Personal freedom— the ability to do what I want, when I want, because I want to do it— is seen as the only absolute value. Can sustained human rights, those unalienable rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator, girded by law, survive in such a culture?

The pragmatic, utilitarian worldview, so popular in some segments of government and society, is used to construct a system of laws protecting human rights, particularly that of life itself, that are like blowing leaves— everything is constantly being renegotiated, based on shifting winds of utility, convenience, privacy, and self-interest.

Dolan diagnoses the problem as the exaltation of the secular, morally relativist culture at the expense of the natural law and the voice of the faithful in the public square. Religion is excluded from the marketplace of ideas because it does not conform to a basic shared set of values that are defined by a cultural elite, and subject to ever-shifting winds of change. The Cardinal sees this as a false freedom because it is not grounded in the fundamental dignity of the human being. The Gospel of Life as articulated by Bl. John Paul, on the other hand “offers a way to exercise true freedom, not based on a utilitarian calculus of self-interest, but on the innate dignity of every human person from the moment of conception to the instant of natural death, as a gift from God.”

The law of the land has become disconnected from the natural law, finding instead its inspiration and justification in pragmatism, utilitarianism, and consumerism, all of which undermine the essential dignity of the individual. Ethical norms, he observes, cannot be derive “from a purely pragmatic scientific approach. This system denies that mere observation of how things are cannot tell us how things should be and how people should behave from a moral perspective— in other words, it denies that one can derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.” Natural law is thus “based on the transition from the ‘is’ to the ‘ought’ upon which our moral decisions and actions are grounded.” He calls this transition from “is” to “ought” a moral journey, and insists that it must be at the heart of justice.

It’s a short work, no more than the length of a good speech (which is what it is). It’s Dolan the teacher, speaking in that that clear and direct voice of his, which has become so essential in the life of the American church. John Allen’s long and perceptive essay on the Cardinal gives it some added context and makes for a nice bonus feature.

You can buy it at Amazon for a buck. Seriously: you probably pay that much for the foam on a cup of Starbuck’s wretched coffee, so go ahead and check it out.

UPDATE: Brandon Vogt also does a review.


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The Digital Pamphlet

The American Revolution was fueled in part by pamphlets: cheap, short booklets that bypassed conventional publishing routs and brought new ideas straight to the masses. It’s hard to imagine the revolution without Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the ability of colonists to express and share ideas inexpensively and rapidly thanks to the printing press and a literate populace. Indeed, my friend pictured at the right, Johannes Gutenberg, remains the most revolutionary figure in technological history.

The internet has made that similar revolutionary spirit possible in myriad ways, but blogs and websites tend to feed short attention spans. There’s still a place in the world for the long-form essay, and now that we have the ability to create and publish ebooks almost instantly, the pamphlet (more than 5 pages but fewer than 50) is making something of a comeback. Amazon has their Kindle Singles program, which are short books for under $2, and it’s doing quite well. Archbishop Chaput’s Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America is one good example, and now Cardinal Timothy Dolan adds another.

Cardinal Dolan’s book is called True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty, and you can buy it in the Amazon Kindle store for 99 cents. You don’t need to own a Kindle: it can be read on a computer or mobile device as well.

So, go. Shoo. Go buy it. I’ll wait until you come back. I’m about to read it myself, then I’ll return with some thoughts on it.